Chess The Musical: A Must-See For ABBA Fans

Chess The Musical, London Coliseum ★★★☆☆

By Paul Ewing Last edited 28 months ago

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Chess The Musical: A Must-See For ABBA Fans Chess The Musical, London Coliseum 3

The Cold War, phoney Americans, thoughtful Russians and the game of chess are all backdrops to this curious rock opera. Written by Tim Rice with music by ABBA’s Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus, it is a must see for ABBA fans. It allows you to wonder what the band might have sounded like if they carried on into the eighties with its rock ballads and intricate melodies. It’s the first West End production of Chess in 32 years. And while the show has had many changes over the years, it works best when it flashes its early eighties origins. It looks gorgeous with its neon-inspired outlines and large projections. Add in the forces of the English National Opera Orchestra and chorus, and it sounds sublime.

But even paring the story back with minimal dialogue comes with problems. The Russian, Anatoly (Michael Ball) and Florence (Cassidy Janson) fall in love over a beer at a mountain bar. He then leaves behind a wife (Alexandra Burke) and child by seeking asylum in England. Everyone then proceeds to spend the rest of act two in hotel rooms. In this context the hit song “I know him so well”, delivered without irony, seems daft. We hardly know any of them. But we do know the history of chess. And get a chance to hear more from the men behind ABBA.

Chess, London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES. £12-£150. Until 2 June 2018.

Last Updated 08 May 2018